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GENERAL AMERICAN LIFE INSURANCE v. KLATZ
January 17, 2003
GENERAL AMERICAN LIFE INSURANCE
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zagel, United States District Judge
I grant the motion for reconsideration and, after reconsideration, decline to vacate my order of November 7, 2002. The issue presented to the jury was whether Dr. Klatz's total disability ended after September, 1998. The jury found that it did. What was left to me to decide was whether he qualified for an extended benefit after disability ended-to compensate him for loss of income after his disability ended. In simple terms someone like Dr. Klatz who is totally disabled from his osteopathic practice and recovers his ability may well have further losses from his disability because his practice will not ordinarily return full-blown to him. Patients have gone to other doctors and referrals will take time to rise to former levels. The jury was not asked to decide any of these questions-and wisely so because the total disability issue was complicated enough. What the insurer asks me to do here is to infer from the jury's finding and the evidence that total disability stopped prior to the September time period which was the subject of the jury deliberations. The jury was not asked to pick a date. The September date arose because that was the date that the insurer decided to stop paying. That the total disability may have ended earlier was left to me to decide but only in connection with the extended coverage issue.
The policy insured against disability to practice one's existing occupation. These policies were attractive to professionals like lawyers and doctors who developed specialized practices. Ordinary disability policies would be less useful to such professionals who might be able to retool their skills to enable them to earn significant income in another legal or medical specialty. The disability payments are balm for their loss of their ability to do what they have chosen to do with their professional skills. In this case, I find that there is no reasonable possibility that Dr. Klatz could have resumed his chosen specialty within the 12-month period of the extended coverage, and, indeed, his earned income from his chosen speciality did not ever reach more than 80% of his prior earned income from that specialty. Then the only door open to the insurer is to contend that, as a matter of fact, Dr. Klatz was not totally disabled. I believe that Dr. Klatz did establish that he was disabled until September, 1998, and I find as a fact that he was so disabled. Whether this disability arose solely from the physical damage done to him at the automobile accident or from the physical damage and the psychological consequences directly resulting from that physical damage is not necessary for me to decide. The accident disabled him at least through September 1998 and I award damages in the amount of $89,859.96 along with prejudgment interest of $17,431.43. I order judgment entered in favor of Dr. Klatz and against General American Life Insurance Company in the amount of $107,291.39.
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